In just a few hours the entire world will celebrate the flipping of the calendar from 2016 to 2017. Celebrations abound as “time” makes it’s way from east to west. The making of New Year's resolutions, setting goals and changing habits are part of this ritual. As all this takes place, there’s something we need to consider seriously in light of how we live.
What I share is tender and precious. I’ve thought a lot about this over the past weeks and my intention is to give honor and respect not only to this topic but to the beautiful people whose lives touched me so deeply and birthed this writing; I believe this will resonate with millions.
“One day I’m going to die, and so are you.”
Death. It’s not something we like to discuss. We may ponder it while talking over coffee for a few moments or briefly at funerals, but it’s not the topic of every day. Years ago, when attending the University of Miami, I took a course which I’ve come to embrace as my favorite undergraduate class, Religious Issues of Death and Dying. On one day the professor told the students, in very somber tones, that he was dying. Many gasped, one girl cried. After a lengthy explanation of details on his health, he said, “One day I’m going to die, and so are you.” Immediately most were faced with their mortality. His plan had worked!
Usually, with depthless phrases we confront the fact that our flesh and bones will one day return to dust. “Two things are certain in life, Death and taxes.” is one I’ve heard often. But, in that certainty, do we ever pause and reflect on how we live in light of pending repose? Do we live as men and women destined for extinction? How many of us would change the way we live if we knew the number of days left on our calendar? We can race through life sucking up as much of its flavor and energy as we can but are we living well? American journalist and writer, Hunter S. Thompson wrote,
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”
Now, here’s the crux of this matter. Many of us will come to the end of our lives thoroughly used up. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves this question every day: “In expending myself, am I living in such a way that many others benefit from my existence?” In other words, am I giving more than I’m taking? Do we leave positive imprints on others that will live on after us? Are we serving as powerful examples? Or, do we just use up resources for our pleasure? Hedonists will certainly end in a cloud of smoke, and I don’t want to end the race with fuel still in my tank. But, in exhausting all that I am will I do it well?
We are here to give significantly. Love deeply. Forgive quickly. Encourage strongly.
In my last post, “The Elusiveness of “Why?”, I approached this topic from a slightly different vantage point. Our lives are not our own. We are not here solely for our pleasure. The trials we face are designed to change us so that we will strengthen others. We are here to give significantly. Love deeply. Forgive quickly. Encourage strongly. It’s about living nobly in a stress filled and dark world.
I’m not suggesting we constantly think about death; this would be just as unhealthy as not considering it at all. I am urging us to think about it soberly, with real presence of mind in light of eternity. Our interactions with others do matter! The two friends I lost this month changed my life in ways I’m only now realizing through silent moments of reflection. They were beautiful people who loved God deeply, adored their families and breathed into others hope. They leave behind legacies which will be passed down for generations to come. I want to be that kind of person, don’t you?
You can be happy and have a horribly self-centered existence!
Now that the sun has made its way across the earth one more time and we call this a “New Year” my prayer is that you would make it a “New Life”. Choose to live significantly, not just hedonistically; you can be happy and have a horribly self-centered existence! Jesus said, “What would it benefit a person if they were to gain all the riches and happiness in the world but lose their own soul?” Jesus came to rescue us from the dankness of death, resurrected into life. He provided the ultimate solution. Just as Jesus did, to live significantly means to live humbly looking not only to our interests but also to the interests of others. How we live in light of eternity demands careful consideration because one day, death becomes you!
“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” ―Ernest Hemingway
*I want to honor both of my dear friends, Don and Doris, who left this earth having lived well. They trusted Jesus for their today and tomorrow. Their lives were examples that will echo through eternity and they are greatly missed.